Various Artists

Fiestas of Chiapas & Oaxaca

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Mexico's southern provinces were still extremely rural in 1976, when this set was first released -- and remain so today. And in rural societies tradition tends to linger. This fiesta music has a rugged beauty about it, and a celebratory fervor that starts on "Son Sventa N'Ahaul San Lorenzo," where the fireworks exploding over the village can clearly be heard. Explorer Series: Mexico, by its very nature, can offer little more than a sampling of different festivals and traditions. Marimba conjuntos (or groups) occur often, and with rich beauty, while the violin/guitar/harp combination on "Bats'i Son Martomail" is thrilling. The fife and drum (in this case flute and drum), so typical of Europe and North America in late medieval times, come to the fore on "Son Sventa Cajvaltic," a reminder of the battles fought in the area between the Indians and conquistadors -- the result of which is the mestizo population so typical of Mexico. There are also brass bands, which occur all over the country, and, perhaps the biggest surprise, a couple of solo singers, accompanying themselves on guitar, very intimate for such fiestas. An excellent portrait of a place that hasn't changed much -- economically or socially -- in the time since these recordings were made.

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